Politico‘s senior investigative reporter pushed back against former Obama administration officials on Tuesday night after they attempted to discredit his report about the administration undermining efforts to stop a drug trafficking operation run by the Islamist terror organization Hezbollah while the U.S. worked to secure the Iran nuclear deal.
Josh Meyer published a bombshell report entitled, "The Secret Backstory of How Obama Let Hezbollah Off the Hook," that detailed how Obama administration officials "threw an increasingly insurmountable series of roadblocks" in the way of Project Cassandra, a joint investigation between the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Pentagon that looked into Hezbollah's drug trafficking operation. The report argued the administration made it difficult to crackdown on the Iranian-backed terrorist organization while the administration was also working to garner favor with Iran during Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiations.
Meyer spoke to Fox News about the report and about former administration's attempts to discredit it.
"From what I understand in your reporting, there were problems at the State Department, the Justice Department, the DEA had been very involved in these investigations, and when people wanted to push forward, the administration was not especially helpful," Fox News host Shannon Bream said.
Meyer agreed with Bream's summary, but said he didn't want to characterize his report as "one grand conspiracy," noting there was a series of actions from the Obama administration that were specific and intentional, but others were part of a broader geopolitical strategy.
"Over the eight years of the Obama administration, you had potentially dozens of criminal cases that languished. People were transferred, efforts to create a RICO prosecution were not supported, extraditions and so forth," Meyer said, referencing the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act that was passed in 1970 with the declared purpose of seeking to eradicate organized crime in the United States.
"So at the end of the day, when you really look at it, there's at least seven or eight of these major players that they allege were part of this conspiracy, leading this conspiracy that are out there operating with impunity around the world," Meyer continued.
Bream asked Meyer whether the Hezbollah terrorists were not tried to the fullest extent of the law because the Obama administration didn't want to cause tensions during their negotiations with Iran.
"I wouldn't say they weren't pursued because of that, I would say that this is a fallout," Meyer said. "Their policy of rapprochement with Iran and their effort to get the nuclear deal created a political climate where that result was a derailment of this policy. So some efforts were intentional, I think some were not, and I'd love to see a full accounting of what happened."
Bream then played a video clip of former State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf attempting to discredit Meyer's report.
"Until Politico wrote this piece, I had never even heard of this program," Harf said of Project Cassandra. "The Politico story, this narrative in it, is just false and there is no evidence in this story to back up their allegations. They quote a couple of low-level ideological sources who clearly don't like the Iran deal."
Project Cassandra was founded in 2008 and would spend the next eight years using wiretaps, undercover operations, and informants to map out Hezbollah's illegal networks, and involved the help of 30 U.S. and foreign security agencies. Cassandra investigators discovered that Hezbollah was laundering $200 million of dirty money into the United States per month and smuggling in 85 tons of cocaine, but before they could make a case against Hezbollah's highest tier, Obama officials intervened, according to interviews Politico conducted with dozens of participants.
Bream also read a tweet from former National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor where he slammed Meyer's report.
"There are many reasonable critiques of Obama's foreign policy. The idea that he was soft on Hezbollah is not one of them. The story is so manufactured out of thin air that it's hard to push back except to say that it's a figment of the imagination of two very flawed sources," Vietor wrote.
Meyer disagreed with their critiques.
"I'm fan of Marie's. I talked to her when she was at the State Department, but she was at a different level of the State Department. She was a spokesperson and to say that the people that I quoted were low-level people is sort of ridiculous. These were the people that led this task force. They were not ideologues. They're not flawed. I don't know what she's talking about," Meyer said.
"This is not a story in 14,000 words where I was just taking some ‘spin' from some people. This spent months of meticulous reporting to document what was happening– talking to people outside the administration–and so I challenge people to let me know what the specifics are that they think aren't true," Meyer concluded.
Ben Rhodes, former Obama deputy national security advisor and one of the architects of the JCPOA, also slammed Meyer's report, inferring it was "anti Iran Deal propaganda."
"There is boundless irony and hypocrisy in how much people who love to sneer at "echo chambers" live entirely inside a perpetual right wing echo chamber of non-fact based anti Iran Deal propaganda," Rhodes tweeted.
There is boundless irony and hypocrisy in how much people who love to sneer at "echo chambers" live entirely inside a perpetual right wing echo chamber of non-fact based anti Iran Deal propaganda. https://t.co/mMw1Zk4Ckv
— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) December 20, 2017